MINISTERS CUT DOWN SUBSIDIES AND GAVE AWARDS
BGN15MN will be spent this year in connection with the Bulgarian Chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the country's accession to NATO and the European Union (EU). The funds have been projected by the Ordinance for Implementation of the 2004 Budget, published on February 17. The document stipulates also that BGN5MN from the Governement's budget will be extended for integration into the EU, and another BGN5MN - for preparing the Communication Strategy for Memebrship in the EU. A substantial sum - BGN2.74MN - has been earmarked for awards to the officials who took part in the preparation of negotiations with the EU. The largest prizes will go to experts from the Finance Ministry - a total of BGN528,000, next come their colleagues from the Ministry of Economy who will get BGN412,000 and employees from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, for whom BGN376,000 has been projected. Subsidies for transportation have been cut down, as well as the money from the budget that go to enterprises for fo maintenance of activities which are of national interest or are important to the population. The funds for the Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ) will be reduced from BGN70MN to BGN60MN, and the subsidies to the public transport in Sofia will go down from BGN7MN to BGN4MN. Less money will be allocated also for ensuring transport in the mountaineous regions and thinly populated areas - BGN6MN, down form BGN10MN in 2003. The discounts for students and retirees when travelling by automobile or railway transport have been cut down, too. Season-tickets for the city public transport and train tickets for students will be 30% cheaper than the ordinary fare, down from last years' 50% discount. The discount for pensioners will go down from the current 30% to 20 per cent. At the same time, in order to compensate the value of payfree travel and discounts, the budget will allocate BGN55.1MN, BGN10MN of which is intended for the transportation of students from the municipal schools. The amount was lower in 2003 - BGN50.5MN, of which only BGN4.5MN was earmarked for the transportation of students. Subsidies to central heating and coal-mining companies have been drastically cut down - from BGN48MN to BGN29MN. This is rather a positive tendency, as it is a result of the programmes for reduction of losses in these sectors. Subsidies to the ill-fated Terem have been decreased from BGN1.35MN to BGN1.25MN, but sveral other military repair plants will get increased (though insignificantly) subsidies. The money for the Tobacco Fund (BGN101MN) have remained unchanged. This is indeed the lion's share of all state subsidies. At the expense of the above-mentioned cuts, transfers from the republican budget for covering capital expenses of various structures have been increased considerably. At a first glance this should mean that instead of pouring money into loss-makers, investments will go up. But on the other hand, it is not so certain that investing budget funds in a construction would be more important to the public, than ensuring transport in the poor regions. The budget was most generous to the Sofia Airprort. Financiang for investments there will go up from BGN5.1 to BGN24.5MN. The national company Railway Infrastructure will get BGN30MN this year, up from BGN20MN in 2003. A total of BGN13MN-plus has been earmarked for the ports of Bourgas and Lom, while no money was intended for them in 2003.